Ken Draper’s City Watch publishes new content from CIty Hall activists, observers and insiders every Tuesday and Friday. Here’s some articles up today:
* Greuel Scolds Transpo for Dismissing the Public on Bicycle Plan
* Los Angeles Dreamin’ on 10th anniversary of Neighborhood Councils.
* Growing Wheat in the Tundra on bulldozing urban blight.
* In the Driver’s Seat on the NC movement.
* Congestion Pricing: More Heat than Light on traffic congestion.
Here’s my contribution to City Watch:
We Need a Bombshell
In the last 25 years, the consumer price index has risen roughly 100
percent while the salaries of Los Angeles’ elected officials has soared
by more than 700 percent.
So the question I ask is this: Is LA a better city than it was a generation ago?
Admittedly, the air is cleaner but it’s still the most polluted in the
nation. Traffic congestion is still the worst in the nation. There’s a
75 years backlog to fix the streets and sidewalks. Planning for
neighborhood improvement is non-existent. The poverty rate has soared.
Few major corporations call LA home and the civic culture has weakened
to the point or irrelevancy.
The list of negatives is long and the current batch of city officials
has done little to make things better and a lot to make things worse.
From time to time, the public has risen up and demanded change: Ethics
reform in the early 1990s, City Charter Reform a few years later and
finally San Fernando Valley secession at the start of the 21st century.
For all the lip service that was paid to the commitment to reform, city
government today is more corrupted than ever, more immune to the voice
of the people, more held hostage by the role of special interests whose
money makes them all but unbeatable in elections.
The result is massive public subsidies to billionaires and large
corporations for developments that most people didn’t want, digital
billboards and pot shops popping up everywhere much to the annoyance of
residents, a soaring budget deficit at the same time rates, fees and
taxes have risen sharply.
For years, community activists have spent endless hours trying to have
their voices heard, to be partners in solving the city’s problems,
working hard to put people into public office who will represent their
Their efforts have largely been to no avail although the defeat of
Measure B in March and the election of Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich as City
Attorney in May are signs that the winds of change are gaining strength
To make a difference, we need to redouble our efforts. We need to
become better organized and learn to collaborate among the city’s
far-flung regions, to gather better information and expertise, to be as
effective in bringing pressure on City Hall as the best lobbyists.
But none of that will mean a thing unless we awaken the sleeping giant
of LA politics: The 83 percent who … apathetic, uninformed or defeated
… don’t even bother to vote.
We need a bombshell, maybe many of them.
The weapon at hand is the salaries of our elected officials – salaries
that are far higher than the elected officials of New York or any other
city in the nation.
Our council members are paid $180,000 a year, the controller, city attorney and mayor 10, 20 and 30 percent more.
A Charter Amendment that slashed those salaries in half would be the
wakeup call we need to get the public debate focused on the performance
of the people who win elections with dirty money and serve special
interests far better than the public interest.
It’s a giant task to get a Charter Amendment on the ballot but no
politician in his or her right mind – if there are any – can oppose it
without looking the self-servers they are.
The “50 percent solution” itself is only one piece in the puzzle of how
to turn LA around, but it’s an important step down the road of real